A game that Scott Parker is surely now delighted went ahead, and Jose Mourinho must be regretting.
It represented quite a turnaround given the week’s events, if not such a turnaround in the match itself. Fulham may have had to come from behind to claim this 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur, but they were full value for the point, and probably more. They were just the better side, and look a new team, as Spurs succumbed to what is an all-too-familiar failing. They once again conceded late, having failed to press home. Fulham can really press on from this, especially ahead of games against Chelsea on Saturday and Manchester United on Wednesday.
The games in hand from their recent Covid outbreak – that saw this game rearranged at short notice – mean this point doesn’t lift them out of the bottom three, but they look an increasingly better bet to survive, as Spurs continue to make a struggle of getting into the top four.
Ivan Cavaleiro’s fine headed goal – which matched Harry Kane’s in quality, as it did on the scoreline – prevented the home side from leaping above all of Leicester City, Everton and Manchester City. They stay in sixth.
Just as they did a few weeks ago against Liverpool, meanwhile, Fulham gave a supreme account of themselves against one of the “big six”. They are suddenly very awkward opposition for Frank Lampard on Saturday.
Mourinho meanwhile faces increasingly awkward questions about those late goals, and the manner in which they’re conceded.
That is already an issue that has been given a lot of coverage, and shouldn’t obscure praise for Fulham.
Parker’s side once again gave plenty of evidence as to how they’ve evolved this season. The soft touch of September are now long gone. There is a resilient core to this team, and a bit of spike. It’s even arguable that they were already the better team until the Kane goal, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek was probably the best player on the pitch. The midfielder – who Mourinho of course had at Chelsea – was running the game, and making Fulham move impressively. He was naturally at the centre of every attack, putting Bobby Reid through for one effort, before going close himself with an acrobatic volley.
It would have been quite a goal, but also an equaliser, because the problem was that Spurs were already ahead by then.
As has been the case in a fair few games this season, their individual quality told when the collective wasn’t at its best. They are just capable of moments like Kane’s key goal no matter how they’re playing.. And what a goal it was – an under-the-radar contender for goal of the month. It isn’t the sort of strike hugely elevated, but part of its glory was its distinctiveness.
You don’t get too many like it, and one of the few it felt reminiscent of was Henrik Larsson’s brilliant header against Bulgaria for Sweden at Euro 2004.
The finish was almost identical, a flying diving header powering the ball into the corner past the goalkeeper, except Kane’s was even harder to get to since it went in off the post. Just like that goal 17 years ago, though, this was more about the divinity of the delivery than the high quality of the header.
It was actually a former Tottenham left-back that supplied that demandingly inviting cross back in 2004 in Erik Edman, and it was an on-loan left-back here.
Sergio Reguilon curled in a ball that was perfect for Kane, and the worst type of delivery to deal with for the defence.
The Spanish international had a contribution almost as important moments later, impressively outsprinting Reid to beat him to the ball and prevent what would have been a one-on-one. This indicated the constant problem for Spurs, though.
Mourinho’s side never shut them down, Fulham never went away. They just kept coming, in that creditably persistent manner. It has been a characteristic of their last few months, and ensured they punished a characteristic of Mourinho’s last few months: giving away goals late in games.
What made it even worse was that the Portuguese couldn’t complain Fulham didn’t deserve it. Spurs had their chances – like one Son Heung-Min break – but Parker’s side had the better of the play. The very pattern of the game, as much as recent weeks, made it so predictable.
It was also relatively routine, if remarkably executed. Fulham scored a classic header-and-cross goal almost as good as Tottenham’s, as substitute Ademola Lookman played in a brilliant ball of his own, for Cavaleiro to score a traditional number-nine header by angling his body to expertly put it into the corner.
That alone was worth the game taking place, but it could now be worth so much more to Fulham. Spurs are meanwhile left with more regrets.